Research indicates that the therapeutic alliance (i.e., the trust between a therapist and client that allows them to work together effectively) is a major contributor to successful treatment outcomes (Orlinsky, Ronnestad, & Willutski, 2004), so it’s important for clients to find a therapist whose practice is a good “fit” for them. It’s not unusual for therapy styles to be as varied as the individual practitioners themselves, so clients may need to “shop around” in order to find a specific therapist whose treatment style is well-aligned with their goals and presenting concerns.
My treatment approach is based in lifespan developmental psychology and modeled after Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Functional Family Therapy (FFT). I view the therapeutic relationship as a collaborative process that requires time, commitment, and effort from both parties. Although I may have more training with assessment, diagnosis, and psychotherapy, my clients are the experts on themselves, their experiences, and their current circumstances. As my ultimate goal is to help clients define, plan, achieve, and maintain positive change in their lives, their active participation is the most crucial part of this process.
General Therapy Model
The above picture is a simplified illustration of the relationship between a person’s environment, thoughts, feelings, and behavior, as well as the amount of control that person is able to exert over each. These four categories comprise the major areas that I “target” with my clients in psychotherapy.
Environment and Feelings are outlined with dots because they will never be 100% within a person’s own control; there will always be surprises. A stressful environment and negative emotions can impact the way a person thinks and acts, leading to a “downward spiral.” That being said, there are countless skills a person can learn and use to make the impact of environment and feelings less disruptive, many of which involve modifying thoughts and behavior.
Thoughts and Behavior are outlined with solid lines because, although it can seem hard to believe, these two components can absolutely be well within a person’s own control. We can’t always dictate what happens to us or the emotions we experience, but we can, with deliberate effort, be “in charge” of what we think and what we do. Taking conscious control of our thoughts and behavior can have a positive effect on our environment and feelings, preventing the downward spiral and leading to growth and development.
Phases of Therapy
My style of therapy is designed to move through 3 phases over the span of approximately 6-24 months. In addition to the individual achievements that my clients want to accomplish in therapy, each phase has specific goals:
Phase I: Investigation
The Investigation phase involves building rapport, applying clients’ specific circumstances to the general therapy model, identifying unique variables and patterns associated with presenting problems, and improving clients’ understanding of their emotional symptoms and experiences, as well as their ability to articulate them in a more precise and accurate way.
Phase 2: Intervention
During Intervention, clients learn specific techniques, skills, and strategies, both cognitive (e.g., thought stopping, bias labeling, reframes, reminders, etc.) and behavioral (e.g., communication training, assertiveness training, behavioral activation, graded task assignment, etc.). Clients then practice these skills as “homework” and therapy sessions focus on making adjustments as necessary to better adapt these practices for clients’ day-to-day living.
Phase 3: Integration
The final phase of therapy, Integration, focuses on preparing clients to transition out of therapy. With the reduction of initial symptoms and concerns through clients’ work in Phase 2, the new goal is to minimize the risk of relapse by increasing protective factors, broadening the scope of current coping skills, and linking clients with additional mental health resources if appropriate. Phase 3 should conclude with a formal termination session so that clients can reflect on their progress and achievements over the course of therapy.